City selects new engineer
KLJ is replacing William Watson as Dickinson engineer.
At its regular meeting Monday, the Dickinson City Commission unanimously approved a task order contracting the engineering firm to provide services for the city for $40,000 per month for 18 months. Commissioner Gene Jackson was absent from Monday's meeting at City Hall.
"Rather than try again (to hire a city engineer) and go without those services for a length of time, the decision's been made to try to hire a firm who has those staff available. They have the proximity and knowledge relating to Dickinson and the development community and they can provide those staff with some immediacy," City Administrator Shawn Kessel said.
Financially, the contract is slightly more than hiring an in-house engineer, an assistant engineer and two project managers, for which the city had budgeted. But because Dickinson has a competitive hiring atmosphere for engineers, Kessel said filling those positions has been difficult. The city tried twice to hire an assistant city engineer with no success in the months since Nathan Peck resigned.
"We've had several offices relocate to the city of Dickinson and a lot of them have expanded," Kessel said. "Engineers in general are very much in need and that demand has made it difficult for us to hire."
The city contracts with several engineering firms and created a system of checks and balances to make sure KLJ does not review a building it engineered for the city, Kessel said.
"There's certainly some things we probably haven't anticipated, but I'm excited that KLJ's attitude has been one to work with us and explore those opportunities and resolve them as they arise," Kessel said.
The city initially budgeted more than $600,000 for full-time staff in the engineering department for 2014, according to budget documents.
As part of the agreement, KLJ will keep a set staff of two at City Hall with more at the KLJ offices doing work for the city, Kessel said. There is a two- to three-month assessment period to determine the exact needs of the community to address the backlog of work waiting for the engineering staff.
"It's going to be a wash financially, but we'll actually have the positions filled," Commissioner Klayton Oltmanns said. "We had it in the budget for next year but we haven't been very successful at being able to fill those positions. So now we know that we will actually have bodies in place and that the work get done.
"With our building environment, I don't know that you could put a price on that right now. We basically lost out on our 2013 construction season."
Watson was terminated Sept. 27 due to customer service concerns, Kessel previously told The Press.
"Please send us someone who is willing to work with the customer," Commissioner Shirley Dukart requested of Craig Kubas, project manager of the Dickinson KLJ offices.
In other news:
-- The commission unanimously approved the 2014 budget and fee schedule as presented by finance director Tina Johnson. There was a $1 million deficit between the expected 2014 revenues and expenditures when the commission began working on the budget in August. The city will move $1.4 million from the oil impact fund to the general fund in order to cover that deficit in the final budget. With the approved fee increases, the average municipal utility bill is expected to increase $6 from 2013 in 2014.
-- The commission unanimously approved the ordinance to allow a winter-only men's homeless shelter in a series of churches throughout the city. The shelter was run in February and March with success and will reopen Nov. 1.
Dickinson Churches United for the Homeless, the organization running the shelter, is looking for volunteers for the upcoming season. Volunteers can apply through homelessindickinson.org.
-- The commission unanimously approved the purchase of the old Selinger law offices building at 26 Third St. E. across from the Stark County Courthouse for $170,000. It was a house turned offices that can house three to four city staff members. The city owns residential properties nearby.
-- The commission heard a presentation explaining the different options for the construction of the railroad overpass at State Avenue. City staff recommended Option 1, which creates an offset overpass allowing State Avenue to be open during construction. It also connects Broadway Street to State Avenue and provides access to affected businesses without requiring any to move. Commissioners unanimously voted to agree with city staff.